I bobbed in the warm, blue-green Caribbean last Wednesday, the gentle swells lifting me, urging me toward sandy shore on a beautiful sunny late afternoon, the orange sun dipping behind palm trees. Suddenly a good-sized fish jumped part-way out of the water in front of my three companions and me, startling everyone. A second time it jumped; part-way out. On the fish’s third dash into air right in front of me I saw that a small shark had hold of the tail in process of devouring its frantic twisting victim. “A shark!” I yelled, eliciting an immediate response from my colleagues, one of whom swam and flopped and ran out of the water. “It’s only a baby.” The reply: “Yeah, but he has a mama.” I had gone to La Ceiba on the North Coast for a few days to consult with former colleagues at the Hospital Regional Atlantida CAI clinic, the clinic that deals with HIV/AIDS patients. We in La Paz opened our own CAI clinic two months ago and I was seeking advice on getting ours off the ground. While there I also connected with colleagues in La Masica whom I promised to visit Friday morning. Thursday was hot and tropical sweaty as usual and my meetings that day were very productive. Friday morning as I was getting ready to board a bus for La Masica 45 minutes away, my Country Director called me on my cell. You have to leave the North Coast ASAP, she said. Hurricane Matthew is due to make landfall tonight in La Ceiba. With much regret I left the gritty seaside city about 9:30 a.m. after I called my companions and explained the situation. As our bus drove through Tela and passed San Pedro Sula the torrential rains began and we started our climb over the mountains. I arrived home about 5 in the evening. That night as I watched the television weather newscaster showing footage from La Ceiba of the same roiling, stormy Caribbean in which I had been happily swimming two days before I thought of that toothy, well-fed little shark.
Of Sharks and Hurricanes